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Riad Sattouf

The Franco-Syrian of the Future

 

Riad Sattouf, a French cartoonist of Syrian origin, has everything to be happy. His last graphic novel is a best seller. Hi work owed him artistic awards and official recognition: he is now a Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

 

"The Arab of the Future": a childhood in Middle East

My name is Riad. In 1980, I was 2 years old and I was the perfect man." Under the caption, there is the drawing of a cute little boy complete with several other information: "Bright puppy dog eyes", "Lips made for suckling", "Fresh off the tree", etc.

The first image of the "Arab of the Future" sums up Sattouf's touch. Far from realism, the drawing is clear and centred around several levels of text: dialogues, arrow markings and narrator's voice. The irony gets rid of the codes of virility and narcissism we find in any autobiography. Because it is indeed his own story that Riad Sattouf tells. It is settled in the Middle East in the 80's, where Riad's father, of Syrian origin came back to live after his studies in France.

Readers gave a triumphant welcome to book 1 and 2 of "The Arab of the Future", published in spring 2014 and 2015. The success is undoubtedly due to the bittersweet humour of the work: the innocent point of view in childhood highlights even more the absurdity of the violence of the grown-ups. The father, who came from a poor class and is concerned with social success, illustrates all the illusions of Pan-Arabism: blind to the failures and the arbitrariness of Gaddafi and the Assads, he also turns a blind eye to the crumbling of his own family unit. Indeed, for Riad, the future would not be written in Arabic: in 1990, at 12 years old, he came back to France with his parents, who ended up in divorce.

 

Riad Sattouf: the talented, the successful and the prolix

 

Will the story of his return to France close the series? Riad Sattouf hasn't given any opinion. But he never ran out of breath in his work so far: at 38 years old, he has published 25 graphic novels and directed two films and several TV films.

What he touches often turns to gold or laurels: his debut film, "The French Kissers" (Les Beaux Gosses) attracted 900,000 viewers in France, and most of the critics were positive. He received the César award of the best first film in 2010. "The Arab of the Future - book 1" sold 200,000 copies, an impressive figure for a graphic novel, and received the Fauve d'or award (equivalent of the first prize) in the comic books festival of Angoulême in 2015.

 

 

Still the perfect man... always

Another decoration (official this time) will soon be added to this already impressive list: the decoration of Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters. It is granted by the French Ministry of Culture to people of the cultural world that contribute to the cultural renown of France. In early February, Riad Sattouf enthusiastically accepted the decoration and explained his motives: "I am a French of Syrian origin, I came from a modest social class and I grew up with subsidies from the Republican State [...] In the current times when [this State] is attacked and weakened from all sides, I prefer to say thank you: I have my own sense of gratitude." At 38 years old and despite a few curls missing, Riad Sattouf still wishes to personify the truly perfect man.